Size matters for I-5 bridge


Agreement last week among regional and state leaders in Oregon and Washington to build a 12-lane Interstate 5 bridge crossing the Columbia River was significant for many reasons.

Urgency for one. During the next 20 years, more than 1 million more people are expected to live in the Portland region - a 40 percent increase from today.

But the decision to proceed with the 12-lane design was important for other reasons. It sent a message to a watchful federal government that partners in Portland and Vancouver can agree among themselves and then can begin to build community consensus on other matters related to the bridge project, including tolling.

Without community consensus, the feds wouldn't touch this project.

A decision on how many lanes will be built is not the finish line. Agreement is needed on outcomes the bridge will serve, including: reducing congestion, helping the economy, enhancing neighborhood livability and moving freight efficiently.

The question of local funding and tolling also must be answered.

Make no mistake, though, the public would not have accepted the notion of tolls without this decision to build a large enough bridge.